Sandra from University of South Florida asks:
“I graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Science and have been unable to find any way to get my foot in the door within the industry as a field technician (the traditional entry level position in the industry). I have internship experience in data collection, database management, and dealing with invasive species; I have rewritten my resume perhaps 70 times; and have been trying for over two years now to find work with less than four interviews to my name. It has come to the point where I am almost willing to simply accumulate even MORE student debt and re-enrolling just to try to apply for more internships. What should someone in my position do?”
Thanks for your question, Sandra! Even though today’s job market is better than it has been in years, it is never easy to find the right job, especially with limited industry experience. I have no doubt that you’ve done lots of work to find an entry-level environmental science position. And, while it can be frustrating when you are struggling to get better results, I encourage you to keep moving forward towards your goal of getting your career started.
However, as the old adage goes, “where there is a will, there is a way”. Don’t continue to beat your head against wall utilizing the same job search methods you’ve been using the last two years. That is the definition of insanity doing things over the same way and expecting different results.
You’ll want to evaluate your current plan and rework it to include some strategies detailed in the post that follows. If you build a better plan and fuel the plan with consistent daily effort, then you’ll eventually reach your goal. The only reason you won’t reach the goal is if you give up.
Detailed below are some specific suggestions you can implement in your plan to land an entry-level environmental science job and get your career started.
How Many Jobs Do You Need?
You only need one job, right? Just one job that is all you need. During your job search, you’ll experience emotional both ups and downs. Learn to appreciate both and continue to stay focused on the goal of obtaining one job offer. Fuel your search with consistent effort each day. If you don’t give up on the goal, you’ll get there.
Treat Your Job Search Like a Job
One common mistake recent graduates make in their search relates to the amount of time and effort they invest into their job search efforts. Most invest very little time into the search and assume that the successful outcome will come easily, even in spite of the competitive nature of the job market. Here is statistic that might catch your attention: 1.9 million bachelor’s degrees were awarded during the 2017 – 2018 academic year.
These statistics aren’t meant to scare, rather to motivate you to fuel your search with a great deal of effort. Treat the search like a full-time job. Invest 40+ hours a week into your campaign to land the right job. Most recent college graduates I meet with recognize that they haven’t been working as hard as they need to be to land the job if they are being completely honest with themselves. I’ve found that many get better results in the search simply by investing more time.
Your Job Search is a Sales and Marketing Campaign
Think of your job search as your own personal sales and marketing campaign. You are the product so you need to know all of the features, values, and benefits you can offer to a prospective employer. Personally, I don’t like the term, job search, as it sounds like you are lifting up rocks to “find” something. Mentally reposition the search while thinking of it as a campaign. You are connecting with people, especially prospective employers and decision makers to highlight your value proposition (what you can do for them) detailing how you can solve their problems. Also, you will sell to the buyer – in this case, the hiring manager. This is the person who has the power to hire you. Focus your efforts primarily on the hiring manager.
Follow Up on Applications and Use Double-Hit Strategy
After applying online, most go into hope and pray mode as they hope and pray an employer calls them in for an interview. Be proactive with employers by following up on all your applications. If you are not being referred to an employer, the employer MUST receive, read, and value your application / resume before they will call you in for an interview. If something fails along the way, then you won’t get the interview you desire. Following up on your application can help you confirm that the company received your resume and find out any next steps or other valuable information.
Additionally, target market your value proposition to the hiring manager as well. Research to determine who the decision maker is and craft a strong message to this individual highlighting how you can help them. This is a great way to get your resume into the hands of the person who is making the hiring decision. The first step is to apply through HR, then target the decision maker / hiring manager – the double-hit. Utilizing this strategy allows you to be proactive, rather than passively waiting for a response. It can make all the difference in the world to landing an interview. Remember, you only need one job.
Improve Your Professional Skills / Enhance Marketability
Invest time to improve your professional skills, especially those relevant to your employment target. Take classes (online or on campus) to gain new skills. If you need to improve your computer skills for example, then take a course through GCF Learn Free. Continue to keep informed about news and developments in your field. Go to sleep each night with improved skills so you are better and more marketable than before.
Volunteer in Community and Industry
Your question indicated that you have limited field experience. One great way to acquire experience is to volunteer your time. Giving back can offer you many benefits beyond just feeling better. Volunteering can help you: 1) Establish your reputation as a leader in the community, 2) Build your personal network with other community leaders, 3) Gain new skills (or strengthen existing skills), 4) Enhance your resume, and 5) Lead to employment opportunity. Learn of volunteer opportunities online through Idealist and VolunteerMatch. Check with your campus’ student services group as they may have affiliations in the community already to help you get started.
Start a Blog
Blogging is a great way to highlight your writing skills, while showcasing your industry knowledge. Media Bistro found that 9 out of 10 companies examine a candidate’s online profile before offering the job. Employers want to hire candidates that have a positive online profile and blogging is the best way to achieve this objective.
Engage (and Build) Network
Make sure to start your search by letting those who know and like you (i.e. friends, family, existing connections) know specifically what your employment target is and how they can offer assistance to you. Be sure to ask humbly and kindly, while allowing them an out if they don’t have any leads for you. If people like you and can help, then they’ll help. Offer to help anyone you are asking for help. Reciprocity is key.
Networking (or connecting with people) is, was, and will always be the best job search method. People hire people, not computers. Also, utilize social media, especially LinkedIn to build your network, especially with those in your field.
Join Professional Associations
Another way to build your network, reputation, and circle of influence is to join a professional association in your industry. This is a great way to connect with leaders in your industry and learn of employment opportunity. Most professional organizations post their available positions through the association’s website or possibly through word of mouth at meetings. Don’t just become a member and do nothing either. Get involved and volunteer for a board or steering committee. This will provide you with the opportunity to showcase your skills and ability to produce results.
Expand Geographical Search Area
Consider diversifying your job search by expanding your search area. Obviously, a broader search area will likely mean more opportunity. For example, if you were considering job opportunities within a 30-minute drive from your home, then expand this to a 60-minute drive. It may not be the desired location, but do what you have to do to land the job. You would probably agree that it would be better for you to be working even if you have to drive 30 minutes more to get to the work site
Contact Your Career Center for Guidance
Colleges and universities offer career preparation services to students at no additional cost. Leverage your career center as it is a valuable resource. College career centers are staffed with knowledgeable, skilled, and credentialed professionals who can provide assistance in a variety of areas including resume review, interview skills training, job search strategy, and more. Your university’s career center can likely provide some further insight into your question about get your HR career started. Furthermore, your career center will likely have a job site exclusively for current students and recent alumni featuring jobs and internships posted with the institution. Your university’s career services professionals will be able to provide excellent advice about your immediate question, but can offer so much more as an on-going resource. Initiate contact with this department to set up an appointment.
Putting It All Together
Make no mistake that job searching is not easy. Remember, securing a job is a job itself, so put in a 40+ hour work week to move towards the goal. Start by building your meticulous action plan, then take consistent daily action.
Incorporate the above suggestions into your plan, don’t give up, and you’ll be starting your first job in your environmental science career soon. You’ve got this, Sandra!
Good luck and best wishes!
Here’s to your success,